Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The non-academic staff of Nigerian universities at midnight yesterday resumed their indefinite strike across the country.
The strike is the continuation of the earlier industrial action embarked upon by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) on September 11, 2017.
The National President (SSANU) and Chairman JAC, Samson Ugwoke, announced in a statement yesterday that the decision was in response to the failure of the federal government to honour the 10-points agreement reached with them on September 20, 2017.
Ugwoke said: “You will recall that we addressed a press conference on September 21, 2017, where we informed you that in one months’ time, we shall be reviewing the level of compliance with the agreement and shall not hesitate to resume the strike action if government reneges on the agreements reached or delays in any aspects. It was following that press conference, that we directed our members to resume work on September 25, 2017.
“It is therefore sad to report that over two months after the MoU was signed, the situation that warranted the strike in September remains the same. Nothing has changed. In line with our decision to review the position after a month, we note most painfully, that none of the matters that prompted the strike action has been addressed. Rather, it appears that government through its officials have decided to orchestrate an evil plot to factionalise the university, cause disharmony and disaffection within the system, thereby destroying the emerging industrial peace we have been witnessing in recent times.”
He highlighted some of their grievances as articulated in the 10-point agreement including non-payment of earned allowances noting that “an understanding was reached with the federal government that the N23billion earmarked for earned allowances was for the payment of the second tranche of arrears of earned allowances for both teaching and non-teaching staff in the university system.
To our consternation and utter dismay, he said, the N23billion has clearly been shown to be a payment for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for their so called “Earned Academic Allowances”, while the three non-teaching staff unions were allocated a paltry N4.6billion (11 per cent).
Ugwoke also listed as one of the grievances, the non-release of call circular in compliance with National Industrial Court (NIC) Judgement, which in the MoU signed on the September 20, 2017, “it was clearly stated that the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission would ensure that the process of issuing a service wide circular in compliance with the NIC judgement would be completed within four weeks from the date of that meeting.”
The unionist leaders also complained of shortfall in salary payments, stressing that “nothing has changed.”
“It is true that during the negotiations and before the MoU was signed, we were given some mandates to sight. Two months after, it is clear to us that those mandates were dud and were products of smartness to con us into believing that the era of fractionalised salaries for our members were over. Till today, our members still experience payments in fractions of their salaries, while arrears have not been paid. Between September 2017 and now, nothing has changed,” he said.
He listed the other issues which led to the strike to include: Lack of good governance, poor funding of education as against UNESCO’s recommendation, inadequate infrastructure and abandoned projects, non-registration of NUPEMCO, non-implementation of CONTISS 14 and 15 for technologists, and corruption in the Nigerian university system
He stated that “having considered the sorry situation we find ourselves vis-a-vis the brazen injustice being meted out to us, and the refusal of government to respect the contents of the Memorandum of Terms of Settlements reached with our unions on the September 20, 2017, we are constrained to inform you that effective 12 midnight of December 3, 2017, the JAC of NAAT, NASU and SSANU shall be resuming its earlier suspended strike.
“The strike action shall be comprehensive and total. There shall be no provision of services either skeletal or ad hoc basis.”
Ugwoke however, explained that the “strike, like others before it, is not our making or desire”, adding that “no responsible union goes on strike without considering its implications on the system. However, we find ourselves in a sorry plight where strike appears to be the only option.”
He said they cannot continue to sit by, while they are humiliated and cheated out of allowances that they have earned, neither shall they sit back and allow their “members who have been laid off owing to the infamous budget call circular that directed that they should be removed from the payrolls of the universities.”